What is Earthquake Engineering? An Introduction to its Goals, Technologies, and Research

Aims of Earthquake Engineering

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Earthquake engineering is the science of the performance of buildings and structures when subjected to seismic loading. It also assists analysing the interaction between civil infrastructure and the ground, including the consequences of earthquakes on structures. One of the most important aims of earthquake engineering is the proper design and construction of buildings in accordance with building codes, so as to minimize damage due to earthquakes. It is the earthquake engineer who ensures proper design of buildings so they will resist damage due to earthquakes, but at the same time not be unnecessarily expensive.

Seismic Vibration Control Technologies

The purpose of these technologies is to minimize the seismic effects on buildings and other infrastructure by the use of seismic control devices. When seismic waves start penetrating the base of the buildings from the ground level, the flow density of their energy reduces due to reflections and other reasons. However, the remaining waves possess significant potential for damage when they reach the superstructure.

Vibration control devices assist in the reduction of the damaging effects, and enhance the seismic performance characteristics of the building. When the seismic waves penetrate a superstructure, these are dissipated by the use of dampers, or dispersed in a wide range of frequencies. Mass dampers are also employed to absorb the resonant wave frequencies of seismic waves, thus reducing the damaging effects. Seismic isolation techniques are sometimes used to partly suppress the flow of seismic energy into the superstructure by the insertion of pads into or beneath the load bearing elements in the base of the structure. Thus, the structure is protected from the damaging consequences of an earthquake by decoupling the structure from the shaking ground.

Research On Earthquake Engineering

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In order to properly understand how buildings and structures can stand up to earthquakes, extensive research has also been conducted on earthquakes.

In order to obtain an in depth knowledge concerning the initiation and behavior of earthquakes, it is essential to ascertain the mechanical properties and frictional characteristics of the crust of the earth. Observations from space have clarified the complete cycle of earthquake, including the silent accumulation of strain, transfer of stress between faults, release of strain, and failure of faults. Measurements on boundary zones of tectonic plates have explained the interaction of faults across hundreds of kilometers. Study of the stress transients that take place after earthquakes will determine the possibility of future earthquakes at other sites in the system. These studies have provided scientific explanations related to earthquake engineering and resulted in revision of concepts and practical application.